Our initial Internet service was provided by my dad’s employer when we had an ISDN line installed into the home so that he could work remotely. Those were the days of Netscape Navigator and that oh-so-spectacular animated comet GIF that illustrated data streaming in from space and crashing into a web page. Or something.
But when the ISDN line was made more secure, we transitioned over to AOL, like most households I knew. My parents loved those parental controls, allowing them to limit the Big Scary Internet from completely corrupting their two wholesome sons (update: Mom and Dad, we were corrupted anyway… nice try).
So when it came time to choose my own login to AOL’s service, I went with what I knew—my initials and something representative of what I did at the time, play piano (there are 88 keys on a standard piano keyboard).
Platforms: Yahoo!, AIM
Once I graduated high school, I hadn’t been actively taking piano lessons for a couple years, and I thought that my old AOL name (which had lapsed into juvenile status) needed an update. The whole college world was in front of me, and the last thing I needed to do was proclaim to the world that I played piano. So I went with something a little more subtle, in my mind.
I had recently become obsessed with Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto, and while I knew that I would never learn to play it, the piece spoke to me and I often cranked it up on my stereo in the hopes of hearing absolutely every single note. One of my friends from high school had amusingly truncated Rachmaninov’s concertos to Rachy 1, 2 and 3 (pronounced “rocky”), so I ran with it. Coupled with my university of choice (University of Oregon) and, of course, my high school graduation year (because that was all that mattered at that age), I ended up with UORachy2000. Had I only realized that everyone who saw that would think that Rachel was a girlfriend of mine, I would have reconsidered.
Platforms: LiveJournal, GMail, Yahoo! and many, many more.
My best friend, Bonnie, convinced me at the end of our freshman year of college to create a LiveJournal account and start chronicling my menial life on “teh Intarwebz”. At this point I already realized how stupid it was to associate any kind of year into a screen name, so I sought after something new and different.
My culinary obsession at the time was Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, a wonderfully sugary concoction of chocolate ice cream, ribbons of marshmallow creme and caramel and little fudge fish. But growing up, my mother, ever the wordster, had engrained a silly little anecdote into my brain about the “proper” spelling of Fish Food: ghoti ghued. It was phonetically based (kind of) and involved letters pulled from oddly pronounced English words. gh from enough, o from women, ti from nation, ue from due.
Wasn’t I clever?
This became my primary moniker for a lot of email addresses, accounts and sites, and I still use it occasionally to this day, though I’ve been transitioning as appropriate to my newer identity.
When I returned from my two-year stint in France and Belgium, I needed to change out my AIM account, which I had altogether stopped using. Unfortunately, I had at some point created ghotighued, but completely forgotten the password or the email address that was associated with it. One of the Tahitians that I spent time with while in Europe loved mixing French and English together, and would always say “Qu’est-ce que heck, man?” (“qu’est-que c’est” translating to “what is that?”) with his laid-back, ça beigne attitude.
But it was TAKEN! Qu’est-ce que heck, man?! I couldn’t handle it, so I just added a zero to the end. Lame, right? Oh well.
Platforms: you really don’t want to know
Okay, so there are various seedy or sketchy sites that I needed a user name for that I didn’t want to tie to my standard issue aliases (alii?). This one was pulled from an old nickname that my aunt used to call me: Wacky Zacky. We’ll just leave it at that.
Platforms: web domain, GMail, Etsy, Twitter and most other accounts.
In 2008 I discovered my arch-nemesis: Isaac Watson. That’s right, Isaac Watson. Up until this point, the biggest name competition I had was either some black high school football player from not Oregon, or a series of old dead guys from the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Ah, geneology!
Once I started doing graphic design, photography and making my camera lens bracelets, I realized that I should probably start setting up a website for myself. So the first thing I did was try to register www.isaacwatson.com (fair warning, there’s a lot of douchey Flash involved there, so enter at your own risk). RUH ROH! There’s already and Isaac Watson with that URL! Say it ain’t so!
But wait, hold the phone. This is very strange: he was living in the same town in Belgium, working at the SHAPE base for the Armed Forces Network, at the same time that I was in that town in Belgium, spreading the good word and doing good little Mormon things (surprise! I used to be Mormon). WEIRD.
It was time for a showdown, but I knew I didn’t stand a chance, so I had to think long and hard about what my URL would be. First off, I had to distinguish myself from this imposter somehow. We were about the same age, and his Google rankings were far higher than I ever dreamed. Plus, I could not in good conscience associate myself in any way, shape or form with his god-awful Flash website. So I determined that I would from that point on use my middle initial (without the period) to identify myself. And after a lot of long, hard thought, I settled on ibwatson.com as being the most appropriate while being conveniently short and easy to remember.
And the rest is history. Looking forward, I don’t see any major online name changes on the horizon. It’s true that the world of the Internet is increasingly being directly associated with our tangible personalities. While the anonymity of monikers and avatars was comforting in the years of the Big Scary Internet, it has become a huge part of me and how I interact with the world, so I will also be associated with it.